Conservation in SA

South Africa today have one of the most up-to-date conservationist policies in the world. First world standards apply in a geographical area that yields the wild open spaces that is associated only with wild Africa.

While about six million hectares of land is used as public conservation reserves, the privately owned areas of conservation have now risen to over eight million hectares, and the number is growing annually. While industrial development have been the main driving force of the South African economy for the previous century, the tourist industry seems set to take over this role in the century to come. Of course, a repeat of the 11 September 2001 attacks in New York (may God forbid it) may have its toll on the heritage of the African wildlife in the long run as well, for the Eco- and hunting industry is interwoven with that of the rest of the world.

Today, most, but in particular the northern provinces,may be likened to an era of more than a century ago. Game quantities have improved greatly in the last two decades. Property combinations and co-operational actions have in some instances taken place where fences have been lifted to improve land size and the free movement of game have taken on a new dimension in such areas as well. Although still in process, some areas as big as 30 000 - 50 000 hectares and more can now be visited without having to pass a single wire of fence in between. Elephants, Rhino and other exclusive game are being re-introduced in areas that haven't seen these beasts for more than a hundred years! And the prized kind of the jungle, the lion, can today be seen in half a dozen game reserves. This turn of conservationist efforts came about, as was indicated earlier, especially in the private sector, since the dawn of economically viable game hunting took off. The moment this industry was able to match (and exceed) conventional farming in the private farmers purse, the wildlife heritage of this country was guaranteed for future generations!

The role of hunting, Eco-tourism and game farming in South African conservation

The viewpoint that hunting cannot be good for conservation, stems from well-meant documentaries about obscure people in isolated regions, hunting recklessly with scorching self-interest. The endeavors of these men can best be described as twisted sub-cultures that doesn't form part of a coherent system in a country with a healthy economy. And it is a good thing that their disgusting malpractices should come to light.

The hunting industry in South Africa, however, forms part and parcel of a well-kept tourist industry that generates large fees of foreign income, most of which is destined to be reinvested in the same conservationist institutes. This includes the buying of new bloodlines of game, or new species, improvement of the natural state of those Eco-systems which carries the fauna and flora, spending on infra-structure and staff to be qualified as conservationists, trackers, field guides and chefs or hosts for tourists. Nature-friendly lodging and bush transport (for example, sometimes on horseback) isn't cheap as well. The point is: by and large, the hunters and Eco-tourists are, considered both in per capita spending and as lovers of nature, the most prized tourists this country could wish to host if one look from a perspective of conservation. Or, to put it somewhat negatively: there would, by now, be very little left of the South African wildlife scene if it hadn't been for the paying hunters. Since the last decade, you can add Eco-Tourists to the equation. The hunting industry in South Africa can best be described as well-controlled hunting in Eco-friendly, conservationist style.

Another factor often missed in a naive anti-hunting approach, is that over-population and interbreeding of game have its own regulating demands, caused not by man's conservationist misconduct in our own time, but by unnatural structural developments of many decades earlier that causes game to be fenced away from natural rivers or roaming spaces. If the game isn't hunted, cycles of nature will cause it to be deformed or become vulnerable to diseases. Another remark in this regard: the very natural selection that takes place in a superior Park such as the Kruger National Park, which simply means killings performed by lions, hyenas, leopards etc. have to be done artificially. In this, under controlled circumstances such as will be find in South Africa, the hunter is playing a stabilizing role in nature. And incidentally, even the Kruger Park runs its own scientific based programs of hunting for the sake of safeguarding certain species). This same truth applies when a farm that has no elephants: some disturbance to the trees and bushes may be needed to fulfill the role that the elephant should naturally be taking care of.

Lastly, hunting in the country is regulated by a monitor system of conservation authorities that means the requirement of hunting permits, the regulation of hunting to set dates each season, stock counting, handling of hunting complaints, field workers etc. But as will be found in almost any game farm, today the same conservational interest is driving the game rancher and outfitter that previously had to be regulated by legal force. And, in the last instance, this, more than anything else, is why the wildlife is South Africa is in such a healthy state.